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Human Rights Watch (HRW)


Human Rights Watch is a powerful NGO, with a massive budget, close links to Western governments, and significant influence in international institutions. Its publications reflect the absence of professional standards, research methodologies, and military and legal expertise, as well as a deep-seated ideological bias against Israel.


Country/TerritoryUnited States
Founded1978 as Helsinki Watch
RegistrationBased in New York, headed by Kenneth Roth (Executive Director since 1993)


  • 2016 revenue of $58.4 million (accessed June 1, 2017).
  • In 2009, HRW held a fundraising dinner in Saudi Arabia, using HRW’s anti-Israel bias and the specter of “pro-Israel pressure groups” to solicit funds from “prominent members of Saudi society.” At the event, Sarah Leah Whitson, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division, boasted that HRW allegations of human rights violations were instrumental in the Goldstone mission.
  • Withdrawal of donor support was mitigated by a 10-year, $100 million donation from billionaire George Soros beginning in 2010.
  • Claims to “accept no government funds, directly or indirectly.” Following criticism from NGO Monitor over massive support from Oxfam Novib, which receives the vast majority of its budget from the Dutch government, HRW added language to its website, saying: “we accept no government funds from these foundations, only privately sourced revenues.” This assertion cannot be independently verified.
  • Website lists organizations that provide “partnership and support” including: Open Society Institute, Ford Foundation, and others. However, following the Saudi funding controversy, HRW removed the names of donors as well as donation amounts from its annual financial reports posted online.


  • Systematic NGO Monitor analyses demonstrate that HRW disproportionately focuses on condemnations of Israel and that publications related to Israel often lack credibility. Promotes an agenda based solely on the Palestinian narrative of victimization and Israeli aggression.
  • Uses distorted legal rhetoric to regularly accuses Israel of “war crimes,” “[s]erious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” “collective punishment,” and fostering a “culture of impunity.” Applies double standards and unique standards to Israel as part of its broader delegitimization campaign.
  • Lobbies the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and other international frameworks, promoting false, distorted, and unverifiable allegations against Israel. Played a major role in the creation of the eventually discredited Goldstone report and submitted numerous statements to the commission equating Israel to Hamas and falsely accusing Israel of “willfully” killing civilians.
  • Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine Director, spoke at a hearing in Congress on June 8, 2017 on “how persistent human rights violations, systematic impunity, discrimination and a hyper-militarized environment affect the lives of the Palestinian children growing up under a military occupation with no end in sight.” The event was sponsored by Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) as part of their “No Way to Treat a Child" campaign. Other speakers included Brad Parker of DCI-P and Nadia Ben-Youssef of Adalah. Both DCI-P and AFSC promote BDS campaigns against Israel.
  • On January 19, 2016, published “Occupation Inc.” a 162-page report calling for businesses to cease operations in Israeli West Bank settlements, constituting a de-facto call for a boycott of Israel. Coinciding with HRW’s publication, Kathleen Peratis, co-chair of HRW’s Middle East North Africa Advisory Committee and emerita Board of Trustees member penned a pro-BDS article in Ha’aretz.
  • On June 4, 2017, HRW released a statement on “50 Years of Occupation Abuses.” In it, HRW accuses Israel of “major violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law” and “war crimes.” The statement further calls upon the International Criminal Court to “open a formal investigation into serious crimes committed in Israel and Palestine.” (Omar Shakir also posted the report in video form on Twitter.)
  • HRW initiated a public campaign with multiple articles and lobbying of the UN, alongside Palestinian efforts, calling on FIFA to take punitive measures against Israel and “require the IFA to stop holding games inside the settlements and to stop allowing fields and halls in the settlements to be used for official competitions.”
  • In December 2010, HRW published a report, “Separate and Unequal,” accusing Israel of discriminating against Palestinians in the West Bank on the “basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin” and similarly advancing a BDS agenda.
  • Promotes a Palestinian “right of return,” which, if implemented, would effectually mean the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
  • HRW was an active participant in the 2001 Durban conference, which crystallized the strategy of delegitimizing Israel as “an apartheid regime” through international isolation based on the South African model.

Criticism from Founder

  • Due to the organization’s failures, founder Robert Bernstein published an article in the New York Times (“Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast,” October 19, 2009) strongly criticizing the organization for ignoring severe human rights violations in closed societies, for its anti-Israel bias, and for “issuing reports…that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”
  • Bernstein expanded on these ideas in a lecture at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (November 2010), and noted that, “Human Rights Watch’s attacks on almost every issue [have] become more and more hostile [toward Israel].”

Key Staff

  • Many HRW officials, including the heads of the Middle East and North Africa Division, have a history of ideological bias.
  • During the 2014 Gaza War, director Ken Roth obsessively tweeted about the conflict. Roth’s tweets were characterized by significant levels of sarcasm, vitriol, and deep-seated hostility toward Israel.
  • In October 2016, HRW hired Omar Shakir to serve as its “Israel and Palestine Country Director." Shakir is a consistent supporter of a one-state framework and advocate for BDS campaigns against Israel. In February 2017, Shakir was denied a work visa by the Israeli government.
  • In 2009, Sarah Leah Whitson, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division, visited Libya, claiming to have discovered a “Tripoli spring.” She praised Muammar Qaddafi’s son Seif Islam as a leading reformer and for creating an “expanded space for discussion and debate.”
  • Whitson published a 2011 op-ed in The Huffington Post, “A Matter of Civil Rights,” abusing the legacy of the US Civil Rights Movement to single-out and advance hatred towards Israel. In the op-ed, Whitson maintained: “We do no honor to [Dr. Martin Luther] King’s legacy by supporting policies that promote racial discrimination and segregation.” Whitson also employed racial stereotyping in race-baiting American Jews, stating: “And why should American Jews, who have a history of deep engagement with the U.S. civil rights movement, support settlements built on these kinds of laws and policies in Israel?”
  • In 2011, Kathleen Peratis, co-chair of the Advisory Committee of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, visited Gaza and met with several Hamas officials. Hamas is a designated terror organization by Israel, the U.S., EU, and Canada. In her article about the visit, Peratis describes her experience exploring smuggling tunnels from Gaza into Egypt with members of Hamas.
  • In September 2009, “senior military analyst” Marc Garlasco was revealed to be an obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia. He was suspended and then dismissed, but his reports were not withdrawn. As shown in a Sunday Times (UK) article, “Nazi scandal engulfs Human Rights Watch” (March 28, 2010), the Garlasco issue was indicative of far deeper problems at HRW.

HRW Total Expenses 2005-2016

All information based on 990 Forms submitted to the IRS unless otherwise noted. Financial year spans from July 1st-June 30th.

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